Tuesday, 1 November 2016

November 2013: in praise of cholesterol

The good, the bad and the ugly:


There is no 'good' cholesterol, nor 'bad' cholesterol. There is just one kind of cholesterol. Only the way in which it is transported through our arteries gives it its good or bad name.
This works as follows.

Lipoproteins carry cholesterol through the blood. Low Density Lipoprotein carries it from the liver to tissue, while High Density Lipoprotein carries it away from tissue and back to the liver to be metabolized and reused. As LDL is found at the place of damaged arteries, it is called 'bad' cholesterol. But do we call ambulances dangerous, because they are often in the company of sick people? HDL, carrying the cholesterol away from those places, is normally called 'good' cholesterol.
A high level of LDL indicates an excessive amount of cellular damage that needs to be repaired. The causes of this train-wreck are not being addressed. In fact, atherosclerosis is caused by cell damage and inflammation, and not by the cholesterol, which only comes to the rescue. [1]

Cholesterol is a vital ingredient for every cell in our body: without it, we could not function at all.
Which is why our body produces lots of it itself. When we cut down on cholesterol, our body will produce more; when we eat plenty, production goes down. So it's almost impossible to lower our cholesterol by avoiding it in our diet. [2]
The only effective way to lower cholesterol is with drugs. However, contrary to general opinion, these drugs have not improved heart mortality, nor total mortality. On the contrary, statins may well shorten your life. Why aren't we told this?

Because of commercial interests. Once an industry exists which makes lots of money out of anti-cholesterol pills and numerous fashionable foods such as low-fat spreads, it is almost impossible to turn the clock back. Global corporations have the clout to influence everyone, if only via carefully choosing the kind of research they subsidize and publish.
They cleverly influence the information which reaches not just *our* ears, but also those of the government and the medical profession [3]. The few voices who call this into question, are branded quacks, or just ignored.

Did you know that people with high cholesterol levels tend to live longer than those with low levels? That people with heart disease tend to have lower levels of so called "bad" cholesterol than people without heart disease? That saturated fats have not been linked to heart disease, but polyunsaturated vegetable oils have?
According to data published by the World Health Organization, cholesterol levels in different countries have little or no correlation with the numbers of heart attacks.

So cholesterol-lowering medications are not as beneficial as we are led to believe. The benefits that they seem to convey, can always be provided by dietary or other means, with far fewer side effects [4].
While billions are made from statins and low-cholesterol products, however, 'general opinion' will remain in favour.

With an eye to Christmas: the cost of turkey. See www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/behind_the_label/1171257/whats_the_real_cost_of_bernard_matthews_christmas_turkey.html. There'll be plenty of tasty alternatives in the December issue.

Veg: Brussels', beet, sprout tops, cabbage, celeriac, celery (and stilton!), corn salad, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, salsify, kale, cavolo nero, kohlrabi, landcress, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin/squash, rocket, spinach, swede, turnips, winter radish, endive, winter purslane.
Fish: megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.
Meat: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison. For (Christmas) game recipes, see www.gametoeat.co.uk/
And don't forget to pick up those lovely chestnuts!

Sow broad beans and peas. Plant rhubarb sets. You can still plant garlic: it likes sun, and woodash.
Give brassica's some attention before the winter. Firm soil around the stems, mulch with rotted manure, maybe support with canes. Pick off yellowing leaves.
Plant fruit trees, -bushes and -canes as soon as the leaves have fallen.
As ground becomes vacant, dig it over and spread manure. Leave roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break them up.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken), both for protection and to get them out more easily.
Planning ahead:
"68% of salad sold in bags is wasted according to Tesco. We can cut this to 0% by growing our salad in containers - one of the best and easiest crops for small spaces." Says Vertical Veg, experts at growing anything anywhere in anything at all. Get inspired! See [5].

PERFECT RED SOUP serves 6-8 – freezes well
750g raw beet cut into small pieces, 1 large chopped onion, 50g butter, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp ground cumin seeds, creme fraiche/yoghurt, 750ml water/stock, chopped parsley, sea salt, pepper.
Soften onion in butter/oil, add cumin, beetroot and then stock. Simmer for 30 mins, or till the beet is tender. Puree, season. Serve with crème fraîche/yoghurt, and toasted cumin seeds plus parsley on top.

850g pumpkin, 3 cloves garlic, 1 onion, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1l water/stock, 100ml sour cream, parsley, butter, (2 slices of bacon).
Chop pumpkin, onions and parsley stalks. Heat butter and fry onions with a pinch of salt. Add garlic and parsley stalks, stir. Once the mix become fragrant, add pumpkin and cumin, mix. Add liquid, stir. Let it simmer till soft. Slice bacon and fry, set aside. Blend soup, reheat. Just before it boils, stir in the sour cream. Serve with chopped parsley and top with bacon.

Cut 2 fennel bulbs in quarters lengthwise, discard the outer layer if tough. Slice the quarters very thinly; slice three celery ribs, equally thin. Put it all in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season and combine. If you like, top with lots of grated mature cheese and chopped fennel fronds.

300ml cauliflower florets, 6 roughly chopped chestnuts, 1-2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp flour, 120ml of cream (or milk), mustard, 60ml mature cheese, more for topping, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper.
Parboil the cauli for 4 mins. Drain, (keep the liquid,) place in an oven-proof dish with the chestnuts. Preheat oven to 190°C. Melt butter, add flour and stir in. Very slowly, add cream and as much of the cooking water as needed to make a thick sauce, stirring all the while. Add mustard, cheese, season. Pour the sauce over the cauli and chestnuts, stir. Put a bit of grated cheese on top if you like, and some breadcrumbs. Cook until cauli is tender, 20-25 mins.

350g pumpkin, peeled and de-seeded, 175g Stilton, crushed garlic clove, parsley, 300ml cream, nutmeg, pasta (sunflower/pumpkin seeds), 25 g butter
Grate the pumpkin. Melt butter, add pumpkin and garlic. Cook over low heat for 5 mins, stirring, until it has softened. Stir in the parsley, cream and nutmeg and cook for another 2 mins. Cut cheese into small pieces and add these to the sauce. Heat through until the cheese has melted. Season. Cook the pasta, drain and return to pan. Add sauce, mix. Serve hot (sprinkled with seeds). Very good with plenty of cooked greens.

350g diced swede, 300g barley, 100g mushrooms, 2 chopped onions, 50g grated well-flavoured hard cheese, 1l water/stock, 40g butter, 1 chopped garlic clove, chopped parsley, nutmeg, salt, pepper.
Bring liquid to a simmer. Heat butter in pan over a low heat. Add onions, sweat gently, stirring, until they are soft. Add garlic and swede, stir for 2 mins. Add the barley, do the same. Now add the water/stock. 
Cook on very low heat till the barley is done. Stir in the parsley and cheese. Add salt, plenty of black
 pepper and nutmeg. Serve, topped with more grated cheese. With leeks or green salad.

675g fresh or 450g thawed frozen spinach, 900g butternut squash, 1/2 small chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 120ml heavy cream, butter, grated cheese, 3/4 tsp salt, pepper, nutmeg.
If using fresh spinach, cook it first but not for too long. Squeeze (thawed) spinach, chop. Cook onion and garlic in butter till soft, add this to the spinach with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cream.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut squash into 3mm slices. Layer the squash-and-spinach mix in a buttered dish, using 1/5 of squash and 1/4 of spinach for each layer, beginning and ending with squash. Sprinkle with cheese, dot with butter, cover. Bake until the squash is tender, 25 mins. Uncover and bake some more until browned in places.

DUTCH BREAD-APPLE PUD the way my mother used to make it!
Butter an oven dish, put in a layer of applesauce, layer of bread (as it is, or lightly buttered), layer of applesauce, cover with bread again. Mix sugar and cinnamon, strew on top, add bits of butter. Half an hour in the oven, make sure that it gets a nice crust.

[1] "Inflammation is the number one factor in heart disease. This is an accepted fact now, but it still gets little attention and no real prevention or treatment.
What is inflammation caused by? Not fat, but carbohydrates. Mainly sugars and processed carbs, but grains and starches as a whole also contribute. LDL rises directly, not with the amount of saturated fat you eat, but with rising levels of inflammation caused by carbs and trans fats." (www.marksdailyapple.com/cholesterol/)
[2] Given all the work cholesterol has to do, the liver ensures the body always has enough, producing 1000-1400 milligrams each day. So the 300 milligram recommended limit for dietary cholesterol is a drop in the bucket - www.marksdailyapple.com/cholesterol/ - an excellent article if you really want to know the details.  

See also
More difficult: www.jpands.org/vol10no3/colpo.pdf

[3] To approve a (drug), the US Food and Drug Administration only requires two large-scale studies to verify that the drug is superior to a placebo. However, pharmaceutical companies are under no obligation to supply the FDA with every study they have conducted; only with the positive ones. (New Scientist 27/7/2013 p.35: "Rebuilding Broken Brains" Samantha Murphy)

[4] www.cholesterol-and-health.org.uk/  
[5] www.verticalveg.org.uk/

Next issue: Christmas recipes.